Justice versus Mercy

JUSTICE BALANCED WITH MERCY

MERCY OVERRULES JUSTICE BUT JUSTICE CONTROLS MERCY – sentiment versus law.

Mercy cannot be extended to a person guilty of a criminal act without justifiable cause. Likewise justice cannot be enforced when the accepted conditions of mercy are met, for then justice would become harmful to the highest good.

JUSTICE: applying power to correct all wrongs, compensating the victimized, humbling the unrighteous by removing from them any and all pleasure derived by their wrong.

I have often seen, with the benefit of years of life, where some people that seemed to get away with wrong at the expense of others and enjoy their ill got gains, who later had the consequences of justice, not only remove their gains, but where sorrow overruled and erased any pleasure in the former behaviour.

How important is justice to God?

Deut 25:15-16 You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

16 For the LORD your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly.

(from New International Version)

Ex 23:1-9

1 “Do not spread false reports. Do not help a wicked man by being a malicious witness.

2 “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd,

3 and do not show favoritism to a poor man in his lawsuit.

4 “If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him.

5 If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it.

6 “Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits.

7 Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty.

8 “Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the righteous.

9 “Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt.

(from New International Version)

The righteous judge must never show partiality to the rich (Deut 24:17), nor for that matter to the poor (Lev 19:15); he must render true judgment at all times.[1]

Impartiality is a most necessary ingredient to true justice. (e.g. $500 donor and $15 donor, will I favour one over the other? The nursery volunteer should be accorded the same treatment as the pastor.)

Ps 82:3 Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. (KJV)

Prov 21:3 To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice. (KJV)

Pursuing justice in life is of greater worth than religious ritual (Prov 21:3; Mic 6:8; cf. Matt 23:23). Justice must lead to honesty, even in mundane business transactions (Lev 19:35-36; Hos 12:7).[2]

Micah 6:8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (KJV)

An example of personal struggle with God about Justice is Job’s experience:

This philosophical issue of [the vindication of the ways of God] underlies the story of Job. On the one hand is his friends’ false assumption that Job’s trouble must fit his crimes (8:3-7), whereas on his part, Job claims to be the victim of an injustice, and demands that God remedy the situation (19:7; 27:2; 29:14; 34:5-6).[3]

How does an observer of injustice feel?

Hab 1:1-4 The burden which the prophet Habakkuk saw.

2 O LORD, how long shall I cry, And You will not hear? Even cry out to You, “Violence!” And You will not save.

3 Why do You show me iniquity, And cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; There is strife, and contention arises.

4 Therefore the law is powerless, And justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore perverse judgment proceeds.

Jer 12:1-3

12:1 Righteous are You, O LORD, when I plead with You; Yet let me talk with You about Your judgments. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously?

2 You have planted them, yes, they have taken root; They grow, yes, they bear fruit. You are near in their mouth But far from their mind.

3 But You, O LORD, know me; You have seen me, And You have tested my heart toward You. Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, And prepare them for the day of slaughter.

Ps 73:12-20

12 This is what the wicked are like– always carefree, they increase in wealth.

13 Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.

14 All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning.

15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed your children.

16 When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me

17 till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.

18 Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin.

19 How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors!

20 As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies.

(from New International Version)

Zeph 1:14-18

Near is the great day of the LORD, near and coming very quickly; listen, the day of the LORD! In it the warrior cries out bitterly.

15 A day of wrath is that day, a day of trouble and distress, a day of destruction and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness,

16 A day of trumpet and battle cry, against the fortified cities and the high corner towers.

17 And I will bring distress on men, so that they will walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the LORD; and their blood will be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung.

18 Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to deliver them On the day of the LORD’S wrath; and all the earth will be devoured in the fire of His jealousy, for He will make a complete end, indeed a terrifying one, of all the inhabitants of the earth

The modern man does not want to hear about a God of justice and wrath. The Bible teaches both that God is love (1 John 4:8) and that He is a consuming fire (Heb.12:29). To ignore or deny the justice and wrath of God is to fail to reflect the balanced teaching of the Bible regarding God. [4]

God’s wrath is an expression of His holy love. If God is not a God of wrath, His love is no more than frail, worthless sentimentality; the concept of mercy is meaningless; and the Cross was a cruel and unnecessary experience for His Son.[5]

Isa 13:9-13

Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, cruel, with fury and burning anger, to make the land a desolation; and He will exterminate its sinners from it.

10 For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; the sun will be dark when it rises, and the moon will not shed its light.

11 Thus I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud, and abase the haughtiness of the ruthless.

12 I will make mortal man scarcer than pure gold, and mankind than the gold of Ophir.

13 Therefore I shall make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken from its place at the fury of the LORD of hosts in the day of His burning anger.

Rev 16:10-11

10 And the fifth angel poured out his bowl upon the throne of the beast; and his kingdom became darkened; and they gnawed their tongues because of pain,

11 and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they did not repent of their deeds.

JUSTICE IS NOT MEAN BUT IT IS VERY CLEAN.

RETRIBUTION

Righteousness does not always triumph, goodness is often put to shame, wickedness appears to be profitable, and wicked men often prosper while good men are under a cloud. Sometimes single divine interpositions proclaim that God is indeed on the side of righteousness, but too often it seems as if He were unmindful, and men are tempted to ask the old question, “How doth God know? And is there knowledge in the Most High?” (Ps 73:11), while the righteous say in their distress, “Yahweh, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked triumph?” (Ps 94:3). The moral sense cries out for some divine vindication, and the Scriptures, in harmony with this feeling, indicate that the final judgment will bring such vindication.[6]

Ps 12:5 “For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, Now I will arise,” says the LORD; “I will set him in the safety for which he yearns.”

Prov 22:22-23 Do not rob the poor because he is poor, Nor oppress the afflicted at the gate;

23 For the LORD will plead their cause, And plunder the soul of those who plunder them.

Mal 3:5 “So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty. (From New International Version)

2 Peter 2:3-9

In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment;

5 if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others;

6 if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;

7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men

8(for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)-

9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.

(from New International Version)

RETRIBUTION

The act of receiving what one deserves. While retribution may be used in the sense of a reward for doing good, it usually refers to punishment for doing evil, especially in the world to come. The word retribution is not found in the KJV, and it appears only once in the NKJV (2 Chron 6:23). Other translations use the word more frequently (Rom 11:9; Heb 2:2, RSV; Deut 32:35; 2 Thess 1:8, NASB; Rom 1:18; Rev 11:18, NEB).[7]

1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you

Throughout history the people of God have suffered at the hands of the unbelieving world. Christians are different from unbelievers (2 Cor 6:14-18), and this different kind of life produces a different kind of lifestyle. Much of what goes on in the world depends on lies, pride, pleasure, and the desire to “get more.” A dedicated Christian builds his life on truth, humility, holiness, and the desire to glorify God. This conflict is illustrated throughout the Bible.[8]

MERCY a disposition to pardon a crime and therefore seeks a way to justify pardon; a reluctance to injure when one has the power and authority to exercise justice

The sinner was without power to offer satisfaction for his sin, but righteousness was provided as Christ, the representative of man, met all the righteous demands of the law and paid the price of sin in the believer’s place so that he, trusting only in Christ’s righteousness, might be justified by God. The gospel, therefore, is the good news that through the Savior the requirements of divine justice have been met.[9]

MERCY HAS TWO INSEPARABLE PARTS WORKING TOGETHER; THE FIRST IS HAVING THE DISPOSITION TO BE COMPASSIONATE AND DESIRE TO BE GRACIOUS. MERCY ESTABLISHES THE MEANS WHEREBY ONE MAY EXERCISE GRACE – WITHOUT THIS BRIDGE THERE CAN BE NOTHING BUT JUSTICE.

Being merciful ‘as he is merciful’ means we are to extend to others the means whereby others may be set free of themselves and circumstances of their own doing. We all have no right to forgiveness, we have every expectation to have justice apply, and justice indeed demands we all pay for every sin. Mercy provides that bridge between justice and grace.

Sinners are not actually saved by mercy but by grace. Mercy only provides a Savior and draws the sinner to Him. God’s mercy alone goes out to every living creature, not His active grace.[10]

Just because God may be merciful in making a person aware of their need for Christ, they cannot appropriate GRACE until they choose to respond.

Mercy wishes the poor to become unpoor. So compassion seeks and mercy provides a way that is wise and just, but should the provision be refused, grace cannot be extended. (e.g. offering a job to a beggar, he doesn’t want it, so he remains in his lot with no better life. In our compassion, we may give him food to alleviate his hunger, but this does not remedy his life. 2nd Emmanuel International having Haitians raise chickens to improve life, after furlough discovered, of the dozens, only two continued when they were gone. The others had gone back to their old poverty ways. The two? Christians who followed the Lord and responded to the mercy and thus received grace.)

MERCY

In this relationship, mercy then comes to be seen as the quality in God that directs him to forge a relationship with people who absolutely do not deserve to be in relationship with him. Mercy is manifested in God’s activity on behalf of his people to free them from slavery; it is neither theory nor principle. As the passages taken up with the establishment of the covenant with Israel show, God’s mercy is a driving force in leading him to create a relationship with Israel (Ex 34:6; Deut 4:31; 13:17; Hos 2:19);[11]

THERE IS NO MERCY FOR THE UNFALLEN ANGELS FOR THEY ARE IN PERFECT STEAD WITH HIM ALWAYS. THE FALLEN HOWEVER, HAVE NO CHANCE OF ANY MERCY BUT AWAIT THE JUDGMENT THEY KNOW IS COMING THEIR WAY (matt 8:28[12]).

THE WORLD DOESN’T RESPOND TO THE MERCY OFFERED THROUGH CHRIST FOR THEY EMBRACE THEIR EVIL DEEDS.[13] BECAUSE OF PRIDE THEY WILL NOT HUMBLY ACCEPT GOD’S RULING AND OFFER OF PROVISION THROUGH CHRIST. THEY DON’T WANT MERCY BUT RIGHTS AND INDEPENDENCE. THEY RELY ON WORKS ORIENTED RELIGION (GOOD WORKS OUTWEIGHING THE BAD); OR JUSTIFYING EXCUSES (BELIEVING THEY MAY PERSUADE GOD THEY ARE VICTIMS).

Grace is what we receive when we respond to the merciful efforts of the Spirit. Mercy is extended to even the sinner as they call upon God in crisis; God does often respond mercifully when one cries out to His name but they are not saved. But we know this mercy is but of a temporal nature in this life, in the judgment without Christ there will be no mercy whatever if through mercy we refuse to humble ourselves to receive salvation through Christ, (Ezek 7:9[14]; Jer 13:14[15]).

Lev 16:14-15 He shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the mercy seat on the east side; and before the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times. Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering, which is for the people, bring its blood inside the veil, do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and before the mercy seat.

AND YET EVEN WITH THE MERCY SEAT RITUALS GOD REMINDS US OF THE WEIGHTIER MATTER OF THE LAW;

Hos 6:6 For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

Matt 23:23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices-mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law-justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. (from New International Version)

RELIGION IS NOT THE OUTWARD FORMS OF DEVOTION BUT THAT WHICH IS DONE OUT OF RESPECT FOR GOD’S SPIRIT IN THE AFFAIRS OF MAN:

THE MERCY OF GOD IS ALSO EXERCISED AT THE JUDGMENT OF THE WICKED IN THAT WE WILL BE RID OF THE SINNERS, THE WICKED, AND THE UNCLEAN, SO THAT OUR ETERNAL LIFE WILL BE WITHOUT AFFLICTION FROM THE SINFULNESS EVERMORE.

“But let our final thought be of God’s spiritual mercies unto His own people. ‘Thy mercy is great unto the heavens (Ps 57:10). The riches thereof transcend our loftiest thought. ‘For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him’ (Ps 103:11). None can measure it. The elect are designated ‘vessels of mercy’ (ro 9:23). It is mercy that quickened them when they were dead in sins (Eph 2:4,5). It is mercy that saves them (Tit 3:5). It is His abundant mercy which begat them onto an eternal inheritance (1 Pet 1:3). Time would fail us to tell of His preserving, sustaining, pardoning, supplying mercy. Unto His own, God is ‘the Father of mercies’ (2 Cor 1:3).”[16]

Finally, because God is merciful, He expects His children to be merciful [17]

Being merciful as He is merciful means we are to extend to others a way they may be set free of themselves. Mercy is the offer by which we may receive forgiveness; shall we not do the same for others?

THOUGH JUSTICE WILL BE PROPORTIONATE TO SIN, REWARD IS PERCEIVED TO BE IN EXCESS OF MERIT.

Luke 6:35-38

35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:

38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.


[1] Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Copyright 1996 by Baker Books. All rights reserved. Used by permission

[2] IBID.

[3] Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Copyright 1996 by Baker Books. All rights reserved. Used by permission

[4] TABLETALK • MARCH 2001

[5](from Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary)

[6] (from International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1996 by Biblesoft

[7] (from Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright (c)1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers

[8] (from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright (c) 1989 by SP Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.)

[9] IBID.

[10] Lewis Sperry Chafers Systematic theology.

[11] Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Copyright 1996 by Baker Books. All rights reserved. Used by permission

[12] Matt 8:29 And suddenly they cried out, saying, “What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?”

[13] John 3:20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.

[14] Ezek 7:9’My eye will not spare, Nor will I have pity; I will repay you according to your ways, And your abominations will be in your midst. Then you shall know that I am the LORD who strikes.

[15] Jer 13:14 And I will dash them one against another, even the fathers and the sons together,” says the LORD. “I will not pity nor spare nor have mercy, but will destroy them.”

[16] ibid Pink p76

[17] Matt 5:7 Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.

Posted in